Movement and the Ordering of Freedom

On Liberal Governances of Mobility

Movement and the Ordering of Freedom

Perverse Modernities: A Series Edited by Jack Halberstam and Lisa Lowe

More about this series

Book Pages: 248 Illustrations: 12 illustrations Published: March 2015

Author: Hagar Kotef

Middle East Studies, Politics > Political Theory, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

We live within political systems that increasingly seek to control movement, organized around both the desire and ability to determine who is permitted to enter what sorts of spaces, from gated communities to nation-states. In Movement and the Ordering of Freedom, Hagar Kotef examines the roles of mobility and immobility in the history of political thought and the structuring of political spaces. Ranging from the writings of Locke, Hobbes, and Mill to the sophisticated technologies of control that circumscribe the lives of Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank, this book shows how concepts of freedom, security, and violence take form and find justification via “regimes of movement.” Kotef traces contemporary structures of global (im)mobility and resistance to the schism in liberal political theory, which embodied the idea of “liberty” in movement while simultaneously regulating mobility according to a racial, classed, and gendered matrix of exclusions.


"Hagar Kotef has written an insightful, thought-provoking and thoroughly engaging book that brings a fresh theoretical perspective on the intersections between borders, mobility and liberalism.... Movement and the Ordering of Freedom makes an impressive contribution to a literature spanning Border Studies, Mobility and Migration Studies, and a range of interdisciplinary efforts to come to terms with the spatial and architectural dimensions of power and governmentality.... I suspect this important work will be much cited as one that brings fresh historical perspective to the political stakes of human mobility and liberal governmental regimes." — Anne McNevin, Migration Studies

“This is not only a well researched and written book, it is also informed by a political-ethical commitment against injustice…. This provides a fascinating (re)reading of liberalism which is pursued through an intriguing twofold analysis: one focusing on the enactment of the regulation of movement in Israel and Palestine; the second exploring a genealogy of liberalism and mobility through the work of Hobbes, Locke, Mill (as well as William Blackstone and Hannah Arendt). This somewhat unorthodox approach to structuring a political theory text is one of the highlights of the book and opens it up to multiple audiences.”  — Joe Turner, Review of Politics

“It’s a book written with both verve and the depth of close, careful reading; with an intellectual suppleness and playfulness and the utter seriousness of a conviction in the political relevance of theory; but more importantly a book that, even, or especially, when it delves into history, strikes with nothing less than the urgency of the present.” — Nasser Abourahme, Journal of the Society for Contemporary Thought and the Islamicate World

"... Kotef ’s book offers a nuanced critique of liberalism, exploring it as a political ideology articulated in terms of freedom and movement. Most important, the book’s readings of settler colonialism in America and in Israel persuasively demonstrate that the colonial condition is not, and never has been, either geographically or theoretically external to liberalism. On the contrary, colonialism, as the book makes clear, is the foundational archive of liberalism." — Gil Hochberg, GLQ

"[O]riginal, concise, well written and well argued and certainly makes a new contribution to the fields of migration and mobility studies. . . . [It will] certainly be of interest to postgraduate students and professionals across the social sciences and humanities who are concerned with migration, mobility, identity, Israel/Palestine, political subjectivity and the liberal state—a thought-provoking read and one which comes highly recommended." — Lucy Mayblin, Journal of Colonialism & Colonial History

"The influence of Michel Foucault’s ideas and writing style are evident in this book, and it will appeal to like-minded scholars. Recommended." — A. Martinich, Choice

"Movement and the Ordering of Freedom offers a conceptually rich contribution that seeks to consider how mobility and movement might be conceived as central to the emergence of liberal models of governance. Kotef’s text is a lucid and well-researched account of the historical context through which ‘the liberal subject was formed in the image of moderation.'"

— Jonathan Darling, Progress in Human Geography

"Kotef presents us with a rich and multi-faced contribution to contemporary theories on movement, migration, and border security." — Nanda Oudejans, Perspectives on Politics

"Movement and the Ordering of Freedom offers a powerful evocation of conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories dominated by the unrelenting and ubiquitous restriction of movement through a dense apparatus of checkpoints, permits, and so on to fragment both the territory and the Palestinian social fabric." — Gopalan Balachandran, Transfers

"Hagar Kotef’s enquiry into ‘the politics of motion’ is timely, excellently written and surely a must read for researchers not just of surveillance/control societies and of Israel-Palestine (the book’s regional focus), but more broadly for scholars in cultural politics." — Marcelo Svirsky, Contemporary Political Theory

"Hagar Kotef brilliantly refracts historical and contemporary liberal political theory through the problematic of human movement. The result is a set of novel insights into the emancipatory promises as well as the regulations, violences, and exclusions performed under liberalism's reign. Especially illuminating of the ways that contemporary colonial powers are tended by formally liberal political regimes, this extraordinary work fundamentally alters our received understandings of the insides and outsides of freedom." — Wendy Brown, University of California, Berkeley

"In this book Hagar Kotef manages to successfully weave several intellectual projects: a wide-ranging and theoretically sophisticated contribution to political theory, a robust and fine-grained analysis of the mechanisms of Israeli control of Palestinian movement, and a direct confrontation with its injustice. This book is a major contribution to the topological shift in the study of space. Kotef does nothing less than rewrite the history of territory as a matter of movement, and that of sovereignty as the control of matter in movement. By pushing her original insight as far as it would go, she best captures the logic of the world we struggle to live within." — Eyal Weizman, author of Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Hagar Kotef is based at the Minerva Humanities Center at Tel Aviv University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface  vii

Acknowledgments  xi

Introduction  1

1. Between Imaginary Lines: Violence and Its Justifications at the Military Checkpoints in Occupied Palestine / Hagar Kotef and Merav Amir  27

2. An Interlude: A Tale of Two Roads—On Freedom and Movement  52

3. The Fence That "Ill Deserves the Name of Confinement": Locomotion and the Liberal Body  61

4. The Problem of "Excessive" Movement  87

5. The "Substance and Meaning of All Things Political": On Other Bodies  112

Conclusion  136

Notes  141

Bibliography  203

Index  217
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5855-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5843-5
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